Author Archives: Matthew Im

Korean wedding custom of carrying one’s mother

My source first witnessed this custom at her cousin’s wedding. After the majority of the traditional wedding ceremonies were completed, the time for real celebration came and everyone was more encouraged to laugh and be merry. The groom picked up his mother and carried her on his back and ran around with her while the onlookers laughed at the spectacle, all while in traditional Korean garb. The act of carrying his own mother on his back after his wedding was said by my source to have symbolic meaning, demonstrating that despite being married, he would continue to support his mother into old age.

Through the various collections of Korean folklore, I have come to find the Korean people as a people that strongly respect their elders. Before their own happiness and decisions must come the happiness of the elders. This ritual was a good example of revering one’s elders.

Pickle Juice Cures Hiccups

According to my source, drinking copious amounts of pickle juice will not only cure hiccups, but will make that person overall more healthful. She first heard this as a young girl from a friend, who explained that pickle juice would cure her hiccups when she had one. One day when she had hiccups, she opened her fridge, and to her mom’s dismay began drinking the pickling juice straight out of the jar of pickles, miraculously curing her hiccups. This notion that was spread to her was not explained but was simply taken at face value, and for her it seemed to work. It was yet another folk remedy that she continued to spread to her own friends when they had hiccups, most of who were disgusted with the thought of drinking the supposedly sour, salty fluid.

This particular folk belief is particularly comical in my eyes. I was always given a spoonful of sugar to cure my hiccups, but perhaps it is the same mechanisms behind both folk remedies that lead to the cure of hiccups. What I find the most interesting about this folk remedy is the fact that she finds it difficult to recall a time in which the cure failed to work, but only remembers when the cure does work. Folk beliefs seem to be notions that people enjoy believing in despite how effective they really are, and will continue to be spread so long as such people carry their beliefs so strongly.

Dog’s saliva works miracles

My source attributes her folk notion of dog’s licks curing mosquito bites to something she was told as a young girl in Korea. In Korea, during the hot seasons, there are many mosquitos, and therefore mosquito bites were a constant annoyance during this time period. When her mother caught her scratching at her mosquito bites too much, she told her to get the dog to lick it, because that would relieve it. Being young, she followed her mother’s instructions and was convinced of the efficacy of the treatment. When I tried to ask why that would even work, she simply said that she didn’t know, but it simply did. I believe this to be a common trend with folk remedies.

In my opinion, this is a classic case of placebo effect. In her head, this remedy was going to work, and therefore when the dog licked her mosquito bite, she convinced herself it was going to itch less and therefore it did. Whether or not dog saliva contains anti-inflammatory medication, I do not know; however, I find that simply forcing oneself to believe that something is not itchy is something that the brain can do on its own.

Kissed by an Angel

My source first heard this from a woman who was particularly interested in mysticism and was very superstitious. She apparently was a maid at his house when he was young, and one day she happened to see the bottom of his foot, on which is a small birthmark. When she saw it she exclaimed loudly, “Oh wow! You’ve been kissed by an angel!” According to her, a birthmark on the foot was the marking left after one had been blessed, though he thought it strange, he did not ask her why she believed so. My informant believed her nonetheless and continued to tell people the same thing if he encountered a person with a birthmark on his or her foot, suggesting that those people went on to tell others as well.

Where or when this particular sign is said to have come from, I do not know. However, the powerful nature of folklore when it comes to signs, especially if told to a person when young was very apparent through this collection. He did not question why or where the belief came from, but he believed and spread it nonetheless. It is likely that he will continue spreading this belief, and because I myself have such a birthmark, it is entertaining to believe it as well.

Confusing Gestures

In India, an American is likely to be confused by the gesturing of heads in regards to nodding yes versus nodding no. My source first encountered this phenomenon on a trip to India for business. He explained how communicating with the native people was rather difficult, especially when asking questions. In the United States, a vertically lined head nod represents a yes, while a horizontal one, no. In India, however, my source claims that it was quite different. A nod yes was more of a head bobble, and a no would be a more vertically situated nod. My source said this was extremely confusing when ordering food, in that waiters would nod their head in agreement, yet he assumed they were disagreeing with him instead.

The impact of such a simple gesture appeared to have an unexpectedly large impact conversationally, simply due to cultural preferences and meanings attached to certain movements. When asking my informant whether or not the gestures appeared to have any subtle connotations, he replied that it seemed to bear a more passive stance and less clearly defined head nods. Whether or not this is actually the case is hard to tell, nonetheless, the gesture was certainly a culturally ingrained movement that was passed on simply by immersion and association from others.